SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
PREDICTION: Colts 34-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have enough RB depth to adopt of physical, run-first mentality this week. Knowshon Moreno hasn't produced big plays as expected, but he's slippery and some quickness and power. If Laurence Maroney (thigh) can play, he and Correll Buckhalter could both get a lot of carries. Kyle Orton has more passing yards than any quarterback in the last three regular-season games (including Week 17 of last season) and spreads the ball around effectively, especially against zone coverage. The Colts hope to run the ball, but the chameleon offense is just as willing to throw it 50 times in the Broncos stack eight in the box.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
It's still early in the 2010 season, but the Indianapolis Colts' running game — a problem area in recent years — may be on the verge of making a comeback.
After having only 10 total rushes in the team's season-opening loss to the Houston Texans, the Colts ran the football a whopping 43 times in last week's 38-14 win over the New York Giants. Running backs Joseph Addai (20 carries for 92 yards) and Donald Brown (16 carries for 69 yards, both NFL career highs) combined for 161 total rushing yards.
Indianapolis' rushing attempts against the Giants were the most by the franchise since quarterback Peyton Manning was drafted in 1998. While the Colts are predominately a passing team — and will be for as long as Manning is around — a consistent running attack is needed to provide balance to the offense.
"There's no question. It opens up so many things. It makes the quarterback's job easier. It makes the play-caller's job easier," the four-time league Most Valuable Player said earlier this week.
"You know you don't have to dial up creative ways to get yards and to get first downs when you're going first down, second down, first down with the same running play. It makes a lot of jobs easier."
Manning certainly enjoyed watching Addai and Brown run through the New York defense last Sunday night.
"It's a great feeling. It was really fun to watch. You hand off and you're supposed to be carrying out your fake, but when you all of the sudden see Addai going for 10 yards, 15 yards, it's kind of hard not to watch. It's something that we would love to see on a consistent basis," he said.
"I thought he and Donald both ran so hard. But I thought the (offensive) line and tight ends and receivers did a great job of blocking for them and giving both of them holes (to run through)."
With the Colts traveling to Denver this week, however, will the Indianapolis running attack continue to be effective against the Broncos? Or the rest of the season, for that matter? That's a question that nobody really has an answer for just yet.
"It was an excellent job in the run game (against the Giants), but you want it to be a consistent thing and not an every other week thing," Manning said.
Consider this little nugget: The Indianapolis Colts have held a lead at least once in 61 of the last 65 games.
"It surprised me they weren't ahead in the other four games," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels quipped.
Denver players have been alerted of that fact; with the point being, adversity will hit at some point Sunday and the players will need to take it in stride and keep plugging away.
However in previous Colts games, Denver has taken it to such an extreme, the life's been sucked out of the team to where comebacks have become something of a pipe dream.
Removing the game on Jan. 2, 2004, when Indianapolis already had clinched a first-round bye (and the Colts first offense actually did score before sitting the remainder), the Broncos have lost the last five meetings dating back to 2003, including playoffs.
In a 41-10 wild-card loss on Jan. 4, 2003, Denver trailed 21-3 with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter and 31-3 at the half.
During a Jan. 9, 2005, defeat in another playoff tilt, the Broncos were behind 35-3 at the break.
Last Dec. 13, the Colts scored three quick TDs for a 21-0 edge with 7:58 left in the quarter and a late comeback was thwarted once Denver found its offensive and defensive rhythm.
Only two recent games in the series weren't early blowouts. Indianapolis led 14-13 before scoring 21 of the next 28 points in 2007. And the Oct. 29, 2006 battle was a back-and-forth affair.
McDaniels attributes the Colts' quick starts in large part to a tempo and personnel that are difficult to simulate during the week, which then becomes an early-game adjustment that's difficult to handle. Further, when teams do take the lead, "they end up trailing in the game anyway. ... facts are facts."
"A lot of teams try to get accustomed to the speed of the defense," McDaniels said. "And when you're on defense, you're trying to get accustomed to all the little things you're trying to get right — to stop Peyton, to cover the receivers, to stop the running game, to cover Dallas Clark. There's a lot of different things you have to do right and the tempo and style that they play sometimes takes a little while to get used to — you just hope it's quick."
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